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Plenty of passes to go around

At a place where the list of former All-Americans includes Reidel Anthony, Jacquez Green, Ike Hilliard and Cris Collinsworth, it's not easy to have your name thrown in when the topic of best wide receivers comes up.

Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell and Taylor Jacobs are beginning to make it easier.

"They have a chance to be some of the best to play here," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said.

Gaffney, a redshirt sophomore from Jacksonville, and Caldwell, a junior from Tampa, have combined for 106 catches for 1,899 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.

Add to that Jacobs, the junior from Tallahassee who has burst onto the scene this season with 28 catches for 573 yards and six touchdowns, and it isn't difficult to understand why Florida has the No. 1 passing offense in the nation.

"They are, quite possibly, the best three receivers in the country," said Grossman, who has thrown for 3,244 yards this season. "I don't see anybody who is better than the three of them. With Jabar, it kind of comes natural and he is just an unbelievable talent. With (Reche and Taylor), they are really coming into their own. They are 50 percent better than they were last year. They know how to get open now and I think they really know the system."

Last season, the primary target for Florida quarterbacks was Gaffney, the freshman All-American who set Division I-A freshman records for receiving yards (1,184) and touchdown catches (14). While Gaffney was getting the glory, Caldwell and Taylor were trying to learn the system.

"It (the transition) was real hard," said Caldwell, a former standout quarterback at Tampa Jefferson. "I wasn't used to catching balls, I wasn't used to running routes against defenders. Now I'm getting the hang of running the routes. The toughest part was learning how to get open against defenses.

"Even catching the ball was hard because I had never played it. It's a tough transition to come to college and learn how to play a new position."

Spurrier has been impressed with Caldwell's development.

"That's one of the rewarding things about coaching is watching a young man like Reche Caldwell," he said. "He wanted to play wide receiver. Physically he's got tremendous talent. He runs a 4.3, he can cut, he's got great hands. It was just a matter of learning to play wide receiver. With practice, practice and repetition, he's developed into one of the best in the country."

Jacobs took a different approach this season.

"I came out here and said I'm not going to set any goals," he said. "I don't have anything to lose. I have everything to gain, so I just came out here like every day was my last day, not hold anything back, and so far it's been working for me."

The emergence of Jacobs and Caldwell has benefited Gaffney.

"It makes a big difference because teams don't look at me like they did (before)," Gaffney said. "Coming in, I was expecting a lot more attention to myself. The way these guys are playing, you have to respect them to go deep for a touchdown."

Gaffney is pure skill and finesse, Caldwell a combination of speed and precision. Jacobs is the fastest of the three, the one most likely to burn a defender deep in one-on-one coverage.

"You've got to love Taylor," Gaffney said. "Any time he is on the field, they have to worry about him going deep."

Gaffney, 21, and Caldwell, 22, are the comedians of the group _ the ones always ready to crack a joke at the other's expense. Jacobs, 20, is the more serious one.

"We all like the same things, like to hang out, like to party a little bit," Caldwell said. "But Taylor is a lot more serious than me and Jabar. We don't hang out too much during football; after the game we may go out. But we love to have fun, it's just Taylor is the serious one."

Jacobs also is the one who shuns the spotlight. The one who would rather not take the podium for Tuesday morning media sessions, unless he absolutely has to. You could say he's the one in the background, but he views it otherwise.

"I don't feel overshadowed," he said. "They get more pub than me. I really don't need the pub. I'm not really a limelight guy. They're great guys, they go out there every day trying to get better. We're out there competing, trying to get better. They are great receivers and I am in a great bunch."

The competition among the three is fierce, but not bitter.

"We push each other," Caldwell said. "Every day, we're pushing each other to work harder, catching (extra) balls every day. We don't let each other slack off.

"We're always pushing each other. And in the game it's the same way, all of us want to make plays so whoever gets the ball, we're just trying to make plays. And that just makes us work harder."

Spreading the wealth

Although Jabar Gaffney came into the season with the big reputation, fellow receivers Reche Caldwell and Taylor Jacobs have gotten plenty of attention from Rex Grossman:

Caldwell Gaffney Jacobs

Number of receptions 50 56 28

Yards 874 1,025 573

Avg. 17.5 18.3 20.5

Touchdowns 10+ 11 6

Long 64 80 64

Game avg. 97.1 113.9 63.7

+ Caldwell's 10 consecutive games with a touchdown catch are tied for second-longest streak in Florida history behind Reidel Anthony's 11.

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